The Unitive and Procreative Ends of Marriage

The Unitive and Procreative Ends of Marriage June 13, 2012

Resolved:  Roman Catholic theology, despite some changes in the past fifty years, still places too much emphasis on the procreative ends of marriage to the detriment of the unitive ends.

In saying this I am not suggesting that the two can be divorced.  Rather, a careful balance needs to be made, and I wonder if our (Catholic) understanding has gotten out of alignment.  I have been chewing on this question for a while, particularly since I found the following quote by St. John Chrysostom on marriage:

There are two reasons for which marriage was established …to cause the man to be satisfied with one single wife and to give him children, but it is the first which is the most important…As for reproduction, marriage does not necessarily include this…the proof is to be found in the many marriages for which having children is not possible. This is why the primary reason for marriage is to regulate the sexual life, especially now that the human race has already populated the whole world. (Quoted by Orthodox Bishop Athenagoras of Sinope.)

Initially, the quote caught my eye because of his comment about having “populated the whole world”:  this put a new spin on arguments about overpopulation, a topic I have blogged about here and here.  But then it got me thinking more broadly and I am interested to hear where people think the balance between the two ends of marriage should be.

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